Keeping cool on a hot, hot day... Meeting other kids and playing in the sand... Sandcastles... Wind and weather and waves... Going to the beach is a great rite of passage, and a joy that follows us through life (unless, of course, we grew up in one of the landlocked states, in which case lakes, ponds and creeks are nice, too...) Here are a few of the books we've come across that take us to the shoreline again... (Any suggestions for more?)
"Hotter Than A Hot Dog"
Written by Stephanie Calmenson
Illustrated by Elivia
(Little, Brown, 2001)
Calmenson revisits one of her favorite themes, the grandmother-granddaughter relationship, with this tale about a day so hot it demands a trip to the beach, complete with a sticky subway ride and a long day of surf and sand. The writing is a little forced, and the art doesn't really wow me, but this book still does the job. It has its moments. (B-)
"A Beautiful Seashell"
Written by Ruth Lercher Bornstein
Illustrated by Ruth Lercher Bornstein
(Harper & Row, 1990)
A sweet, simple story of an old, old woman telling a story about her childhood to her great-granddaughter... It's a story about the Old Country, and a day when Grandmother found a seashell in the waters at the beach as she watched a ocean liner passing by... She passes down the story of her emigration to the new land even as she passes along the seashell itself (she'd kept it all these years, and gives it to the little girl) A subtly evocative story of the handing down of matrilineal knowledge, also just a nice story to read to little kids who appreciate their elders... Recommended. (B+)
"On The Way To The Beach"
Written by Henry Cole
Illustrated by Henry Cole
A neat nature-appreciation book that shows a walk to the beach from the narrator's point of view, with a three-page wide fold-out spread devoted to each setting -- the woods, a marsh, a stream, a seaside trail, some sand dunes and the beach itself, each with various plants and animals shown and described. Of the many nature books we've tried at the library, this was one of the most successful at engaging my girl's attention... And I liked it, too! Neat layout, and good, unobtrusively educational content. (B+)
"Greetings From Sandy Beach"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
A fairly convoluted story, written in the form of a postcard home from a holiday at the beach. The main joke of the book is that when the narrator's family -- mom, dad, little girl, baby brother -- get to Sandy Beach, a bunch of bikers are already there, and the parents are a little freaked out by their shaggy, leathered neighbors. But despite the gang's rough image, they are all teddybear sweethearts inside -- they help the hapless family put up their tents, come by at night to play guitar and sing songs, and share their popsicles with the kids. It's a cute premise, but there is a lot of other information and various visual gags floating around in this thin book... In short, it's a bit cluttered and lacks the streamlined charm of Graham's better work. It's still charming and daft, though, and has plenty of his trademark sense of humor. Worth a spin, but maybe not his best. (B-)
"Sally And The Limpet"
Written by Simon James
Illustrated by Simon James
A kooky, waterlogged tale tale about a little girl named Sally who finds a cute little ,a href= "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limpet">limpet while playing in a tidepool... Sally doesn't take the hint, though, when the limpet won't let loose of its rocky perch, and after she pulls it loose, she winds up with a mollusk stuck to her finger... The little critter stays put day and night until Sally wises up and takes it back to the ocean... It's kind of an odd story, but has that nutty Simon James appeal to it... Scientifically accurate, too, as far as I can tell. (B)
"Will Goes To The Beach"
Written by Olof & Lena Landstrom
Illustrated by Olof & Lena Landstrom
(Raben & Sjogren, 1993)
A delightful outing by Sweden's Olof & Lena Landstrom. Will and his mother pack up and ride their bikes down to the beach. When it starts to rain, all the other people run away, but Mama decides to stay -- you're swimming anyway, what difference does getting wet make? Will comes in, too, and when they're done wading, they have a little picnic. Another nice slice-of-life adventure in this sweet, simple series. (B+)
Written by Karen Roosa
Illustrated by Maggie Smith
A great going-to-the-beach book. Families arrive in the morning, kids meet, play all day, have lunch, play some more and finally go home. In a parallel story (told in the artwork), some dogs meet, too, and when the day is done, one dog stays behind (I think he lives at the lighthouse) and is sad to see his new friends leave. The rhyming text is adequate though not magical, but the artwork is marvelous. Richly detailed, colorful, full of bounce, it communicates the entire story through words, and perfectly captures the sunny fun of a big day at the beach. A cheerful, active picturebook... recommended! (B+)
"A Wet And Sandy Day"
Written by Joanne Ryder
Illustrated by Donald Carrick
(Harper & Row, 1977)
A young girl, perhaps ten or eleven, goes out to the nearby beach for a swim, and when a sudden summer rain scares the other beachgoers away, she stays to exult in the moment, letting the warm rain tickle and drench her, while listening to the rain and the waves. A nice, unpretentious celebration of nature and individuality... also a nice, simple picturebook useful for little kids who are learning about "the beach." Not the greatest book ever, but it's got a very sweet feel to it. Recommended. (B)
Written by Caroline Uff
Illustrated by Caroline Uff
(Walker Books, 2004)
A super-cheerful little girl named Lulu goes to the beach, puts on sunscreen (or, "suncream," as they call it in the UK...) and plays in the waves and the sand. Another short, emphemeral offering in the "Lulu" series. (A)
"Shells! Shells! Shells!"
Written by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
(Marshall Cavendish, 2007)
An informative book, with nice visual appeal, but a rather forced narrative. A young boy goes to the beach with his mother and finds out all about shells and crustaceans. Even regular beachgoers may learn a few new facts with this one (scallop shells have ears!) but the dramatic structure of the book, a dialogue between parent and child, is a thin mask for a fairly blunt natural history lesson. Not that there's anything wrong with the book or the information, it's just that as a "story" it may wear thin quickly. Great introductory texts for kids who are really jazzed about marine life and beachcombing. (C+)
"Miko Goes On Vacation"
Written by Brigitte Weninger
Illustrated by Stephanie Roehe
Miko and his Mom (still no dad!) go to the ocean -- with Mimiki, too, of course! But when they get to the beach, Miko gets worried that he can't leave Mimiki alone, and doesn't want to go into the water. Finally he comes up with a solution: he finds a little girl who also has a stuffed animal and asks her if she'll watch his toy for him while he goes into the water. Later the two family sit together, and the kids build a big sandcastle. Maybe not very realistic, but a sweet story nonetheless. Plus, nice artwork, and no underlying negative message... Worth checking out. (A-)
Written by David Wiesner
Illustrated by David Wiesner
David Wiesner, the king of the trip-out books, returns with a wordless fable about a boy who finds a mysterious magical camera that washes up from the bottom of the ocean. The camera still has some film in it, and when the boy develops the negatives, he sees a fantastic vision of a hidden world, with robot fish and treasure chests, mermaid cities and octopus villas -- as well as portraits of other children who have had the camera, stretching back over the decades. The boy takes a picture of himself, holding the infinity photo, and casts the camera back into the sea, for the whole cycle to start anew. Visually sumptuous and amazingly detailed, this will captivate the attention of children and adults alike. Ppssibly the best of Wiesner's books (so far...) Pretty darn cool! (A+)
"Mice At The Beach"
Written by Haruo Yamashita
Illustrated by Kazuo Iwamura
(William Morrow, 1983)
A little family of mice -- well, a big family, actually: there are seven children! -- goes on an outing to the beach. Daddy Mouse has come up with a scheme to keep track of all the kids, tying cords to all seven of their inner tubes so that he can keep tabs on them and play lifeguard. But when the family takes a nap and the tide comes, Daddy finds himself stranded on a sandbar out in the middle of the water. Mama Mouse and the children work together to rescue Daddy (who as it turns out, can't swim) and then they head back home, with a happy ending after all. A good, simple story... nothing earthshaking or profound, but reasonably engaging, with nice, functional artwork. Has some nice touches, although the story is a bit flat. (B-)
Written by Brenda Shannon Yee
Illustrated by Thea Kliros
Five young children (ages 5-8?) meet on the beach and build an enormous sand castle, complete with a moat, a wall, a canal to the water and a big road leading to the gate. Each kid builds their own part, and by cooperating, they are able to make something bigger than any of them could have made alone. Then, when the day was done, and their parents called them to go home, what next? Well, they stomped the castle into oblivion, of course! This is a very nice book about sharing and cooperation, with nice, realistic pictures. The only part I didn't like was how the first girl, Jen, who started the project, greets all the other children by saying this is "my castle," even though they've all been working on it together for a while. Minor point, though, in an otherwise nice book. (A-)
"Harry By The Sea"
Written by Gene Zion
Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
(Harper Collins, 1965)
Out with the family for a day at the beach, Harry the dog tries to find someplace to hide from the blistering sun... Suddenly, a big wave sweeps him up and covers him with gooey seaweed, and everyone on the beach freaks out and thinks he's a sea monster of some kind. The slapstick mishaps are told, sympathetically, from Harry's point of view... When the seaweed finally falls off and Harry is reunited with his family, we're glad for the little fella. One of the strongest stories in the "Harry" series -- dramatic, funny, easy to follow, and accompanied by marvelous artwork by Ms. Graham, who is one of my all-time favorite illustrators. (B+)
"What Lives In A Shell?"
Written by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
Illustrated by Helen K. Davie
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